US and South Korea begin 'low key' military exercises

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South Korea and the United States kicked off their annual joint military exercises Sunday after they were delayed about a month for the Winter Olympics and to help create conditions for a resumption of talks between North and South Korea.

Seoul's defense ministry said the springtime Foal Eagle kicked off with 11,500 US troops and 300,000 South Korean soldiers taking part in the field training exercise, one of the largest military drills conducted annually in the world, SBS reported.

About 11-thousand-500 US troops will participate in the four-week Foal Eagle training, along with around 300-thousand South Korean soldiers.

The news was also said to have been relayed by the South Korean military through a recently restored military hotline connecting the two countries along the west coast.

US President Donald Trump is expected to meet Kim before the end of May.

North Korea strongly opposed the annual drills and took provocative actions such as launching ballistic missiles in the past.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his South Korean counterpart, Song Young-moo, said in a statement earlier this month that the exercises would be held "at a scale similar to that of previous years".

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The Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises are usually held every year around March, but were postponed this year until after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics, which started in February and ended last month.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in reportedly requested the military rescheduling prior to the event.

Pyongyang has long denounced the joint drills as a symbol of Washington's hostile policy and rehearsal for invasion.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jet lands at the Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, March 20, 2018.

The two Koreas also set a date for a summit between their leaders on April 27, the first such meeting between the rival nations in more than a decade.

Relations between the USA and North Korea also appear to be thawing lately.

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